Facing Criminal Charges? Don’t Panic – Get a Lawyer

When you’re facing criminal charges, it can feel like the end of the world. Not only is there a possibility that you’ll have to spend time in prison and pay fines, but you’ll have to deal with having a criminal record. For instance, in some states, if you’re convicted of a felony, you won’t be able to vote or own a firearm. People with criminal records also find it hard to get a job and rent an apartment.

Although it can make life a little more challenging, it’s not going to be the end of the world, provided you get an attorney to ensure an ideal case outcome.

1. A good lawyer might get you a better deal

Criminal defense attorneys are experts at negotiating plea deals for their clients. If your circumstances allow for it, your lawyer will fight hard to get you a deal. It’s common for people to have charges either dropped or reduced, and it’s equally common for lawyers to get their clients’ sentences reduced. For you, this means potentially spending less time incarcerated, paying lower fines, and having lesser charges on your record.

A typical example is someone who gets charged with a DUI and their attorney reduces the charge to reckless driving. While reckless driving won’t look good on your record, it’s better than a DUI. If you rely on driving to earn a living, one DUI might prevent you from continuing to work in your profession.

Getting charges dropped might not happen as often, but it is a possibility. For example, in North Carolina, Miles Bridges of the Charlotte Hornets recently had 3 criminal charges dropped due to a lack of sufficient evidence.

Just make sure you have a lawyer representing you, and don’t try to defend yourself. It’s not going to work out in your favor. Your only chance at getting a plea deal and a reduced sentence is to have professional legal representation.

2. Housing laws are changing to protect convicted individuals

If you have to spend time in prison, you’ll need to find housing when you get out. Having a conviction on your record has long been seen as a kind of “scarlet letter” by potential landlords. The good news is that more states are passing laws that make it illegal for landlords to deny applicants because of their criminal history.

For example, in California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act only allows landlords to reject an application if the offense is directly related to the person’s ability to be a good tenant or would jeopardize the safety of other tenants. Convictions for arson, assault, and destruction of property are all valid reasons to deny an applicant.

3. There are jobs that don’t care about your record

When you’re looking for a job after serving your time in prison, you won’t have as many options as you did before your conviction. However, there are still plenty of jobs available that won’t care about your record. For example, many people go straight into construction and other physical labor trades after they get their freedom back.

You can also spend time learning a trade while you serve your time. Many people become licensed electricians and plumbers while they’re still in prison. When you have the time and opportunity to learn and gain experience, it makes sense to use that to your advantage so you have some valuable skills when you get out.

4. There are federal efforts in place to support people with records

There is a growing movement of bipartisan support for protecting people with criminal records against undue discrimination. It’s estimated that up to 100 million Americans now have a criminal record, which amounts to about 1 in 3 people. Knowing that employers, landlords, and colleges use background checks to filter out applicants with a record, there are groups of people trying to make significant changes.

It's not fair for anyone to have to experience lifelong consequences for something they did long ago and have since changed. However, it happens frequently, and it’s understandable if you’re concerned about this.

While there isn’t necessarily a solution yet, there should be some peace in knowing that activists and politicians are actively working to make life easier for people with a record.

There is life after incarceration

Whether you choose to go into a trade, like construction, or go your own way after you serve your time, it’s not the end of the world. Although they may be limited, you have some viable options to live a fulfilling life.

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